Imágenes de página

scene, and the large stars above it seem to open their eyes very widely, gazing down on the snow-covered earth.

This Christmas-night is unlike any I ever passed. Its eve was not spent in a very religious manner, yet never have thoughts of the event we celebrate, the event which angels wonder at, and men, alas! so often overlook-the advent of the Redeemer-80 deeply filled my mind or penetrated my soul.

From time to time I rose, and till the cold felt to strike to the very bones I looked forth and saw the artificial lights die out, as house after house closed up and ended their merry Jul-afton, and the streaming light of the lanterns hurrying along ceased to gleam on the ice-hard snow; and then the lights of Heaven shone alone, and far away as the eye could reach all was purely white and glittering, and the moon and the stars held rule over all, and the icicled trees shone like diamonds beneath them.

So ended my Yule-eve in Sweden. Now must I pass on to my Christmas-morn, my Jul-dag, or Yule-day.

HISTORY OF PRINTING.–No. V. In 1483 there were only four printers in England-Caxton, at Westminster; Roode and Hunt, at Oxford ; De Machlinia, in London; and a fourth, name unknown, at St. Albans. De Machlinia, it has been said, printed in England even before Caxton. The unknown printer at St. Albans may have been Corsellis, or his successor, since Atkins says that the printing-press set up at Oxford was removed thither for the sake of convenience. Caxton seems, however, to have been the greatest printer of his time. He produced no less than 62 books; ten of them related to theology, and the remainder to chivalry, plain and romantic history, and manners and customs. The printing of the Bible, which occupied the foreign printers so generally, was, at this period, forbidden in England. Caxton deserves respect not only as a printer, but as an author. He worked with his pen as well as with his types; translating from the French many books, and thus spreading new ideas amongst his countrymen. He was apparently an honest and modest man, a character which he preserved until the end of his life, though the novelty of his art brought the temptations of high patronage and of riches. Kings and nobles were amongst his employers; and it has been asserted that, as the King's sworn servant, he paid a share of the profits of the art to His Majesty.

Caxton died about the year 1491. He was succeeded in his business by Wynkyn de Worde and Richard Pynsent. · The first, who had accompanied Caxton from Cologne, was a most accomplished man, and he excelled his master in the art. He introduced the Roman letter into England, and the shape of his types was retained by the printers for two centuries afterwards. The punches and matrices he used in casting his types were in existence as late as 1758. The art grew famous in England as years rolled on; and to encourage it, extraordinary privileges were conferred upon printers. Thus Richard III. interdicted foreigners from using any handicraft in England, except as servants to natives, but he expressly excepted printing. This privilege was, however, taken away by Henry VIII. because it had become unnecessary, the English having outstripped their foreign competitors in excellence. Yet, as printing became cheaper, it did not become better. It retrograded, rather than improved, as it should, with the progress of time. But strange as the fact appears it may be very naturally explained.

TYPE-FOUNDERS. Anciently a printer was what we should now call a “ Jack of all trades.” Just as the weaver made his own loom and shuttle, so the printer cut the punches, formed the matrices, and cast the type himself. But this system was terminated by law. In the year 1637 the Star Chamber decreed that there should be no more than four founders of letters at one time in England, and that the vacancies, as they occurred, should be filled up, either by the Archbishop of Canterbury, or the Bishop of London, and six other high Commissioners. The object of the Star Chamber was to prevent the secret printing of sedition. But though the restriction may have served this purpose, it retarded the improvement of printing. The printers, being debarred from casting type for themselves, imported it from Holland. The Dutch type, too, was the best made. For whilst the four English type-founders, working entirely by the eye and the hand, and guessing the proportions of the letters, had done little or nothing to improve the shape, the numerous Dutch type-founders, emulating each other, had carried type-founding to a high state of perfection. Moxon, the author of a work called Mechanic Exercises, published in 1667, tells us that having magnified some very small Dutch letters by means of a glass, he was astonished to witness their beautiful proportions. The thickness, shape, and every other feature, he says, were as true as if they had been set off by a pair of fairy-like compasses. But no sooner was the decree of the Star Chamber repealed in 1693, than type-founding began to make progress in England. William Caslon was the first person who became eminent in the art. About the year 1700, Caslon was employed in cutting letters and ornaments used by bookbinders, and in engraving on gunbarrels. He had executed some punches for lettering the backs of books so beautifully that he was encouraged by Mr. Watts, an eminent printer, to attempt cutting punches for type-founding; and he was first employed by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, for which he executed a beautiful Italic fount in 1722. Caslon grew even more expert as he gained experience; and the result was, that the tide turned in the art of type-founding ; for instead of type being imported into England from Holland, it was exported from England to Holland.

In 1750 John Baskerville greatly improved the art of typefounding. Baskerville was a man of active mind and versatile talents, at one time following the vocation of a schoolmaster, at another that of a japanner, and lastly that of a type-founder and printer. Thousands of pounds which he acquired by japanning were exhausted by his experiments in printing. He had so much difficulty in pleasing himself, that he spent 6001. before he had cast a single letter to his taste. He manufactured his own presses, ink, paper, and, in truth, the whole of the apparatus used in the trade. His printing was very beautiful, the letters being of slender and delicate form. The Italic letters which he cast are distinguished beyond all comparison by their elegance, freedom, and perfect symmetry; and the books printed by him possess even at this day a high value throughout Europe, for accuracy as well as for typographical beauty. Indeed, so elegant were his types, that in 1791 four years after his death, a literary society at Paris purchased them for 3,7001. Yet so little taste existed during Baskerville's lifetime for good printing, that he could not get employment. The booksellers preferred the wretched printing that was then common, although Baskerville offered his beautiful work for an advance of five per cent on the ordinary prices. No wonder, then, that he declared himself heartily tired of the business of printing, and that he repented ever entering into it. “Is it not to the last degree provoking,” he wrote to Dr. Franklin, “ that after having obtained the reputation of excelling in the most useful art known to mankind, I cannot get even bread by it?" Baskerville, we may add, was very eccentric. Each panel of his carriage was

a perfect picture, which might be considered a pattern card of his trade. He was buried, as he had desired by his will, in his own garden at Birmingham. His grave was covered with a cone of masonry, but this monument was destroyed in 1791. Some persons of that town having assembled to celebrate the dawn of the French revolution, a riot took place, and the populace wreaked their vengeance on this tomb, Baskerville having avowed sentiments contrary to the doctrines of Christianity.

The art of type-founding was kept secret as long as possible, just as printing had been. The workmen were bound to silence, and so faithful do they seem to have been, that there was some risk of type-founding becoming one of the lost arts. “For," writes Moxon, “I could not learn any one had taught it to any other, but that every one that had used it had learned it of his own genuine inclination.” If this be so, then the art of type-founding has been discovered again and again, as generation after generationhas disappeared. Indeed, so far had silence become the custom as regards type-founding, that when two Scotchmen, the celebrated Alexander Wilson and his friend Bain, commenced their experiments for the improvement of types, they never attempted to gain any insight whatever into the processes then used, from the workmen employed in the existing foundries, though some of them might have given them information in which they stood in want. They failed repeatedly rather than be dishonest, and the merit by which their type-foundry at Glasgow has become the first in Europe is all their own. Again, Mr. Caslon kept the mode of making punches a profound secret, when he was engaged in the work locking himself in a room specially arranged for the purpose. Yet this precaution provoked rather than prevented its discovery. Jackson, his apprentice, was as desirous of learning the art as his master was unwilling to teach him; Jackson, therefore, bored a hole in the wainscot of the room in which the two Caslons, father and son, were at work, and overlooked their operations. Thus instructed, Jackson made a punch, and presented it to his master. But instead of being rewarded for his ingenuity, as Schoeffer was by Faust, Caslon beat him, threatening, moreover, that if he ever again offended by such cleverness, he should be sent to Bridewell. Jackson afterwards became a great type-founder.

The first and most important operation in making type is the cutting of the punches. These consist of separate pieces of very hard steel, each containing a single letter of the alphabet. The punch is, in truth, a sort of seal, with this difference, that the


letter is raised on the surface, not sunk into it. The letter of the punch is an exact model of the letter to be cast. The punch is struck into a piece of copper, just as a seal is struck into wax, and the impression thus made is the mould in which the type is cast. There is, of course, a separate mould or matrix for each separate letter of the alphabet, and no less than 320 punches, and, of course, the same number of matrices, are necessary for the different varieties of letters, capitals, and small capitals, Roman and Italic, which form a complete fount of type. The following

is the form of a letter, which we need scarcely say represents the shape of the interior of the mould. The mould is enclosed in two flat pieces of wood, and the metal is poured into it through a small funnel-shaped top. The metal used in making types is a mixture of lead, antimony, and tin, the proportions of which are the secrets of the different type-founders. The caster, after he has poured in the metal, jerks the mould upwards, by which the air is expelled, and the metal is forced into every part of it, so as to form the letters perfectly. Such letters as f and j, of small sizes, are now generally cast by the aid of a force-pump attached to the metal-pot, an improvement that saves the caster much time and trouble. The metal sets, or becomes solid, instantaneously after it has entered the mould. The process of casting, though apparently very primitive and clumsy, is performed with considerable expedition. A good workman will close the mould, cast the letter, open the mould, and remove the letter in the eighth part of a minute; that is, he will cast 500 letters in an hour. The type made by hand is considered the best ; but type is now made by machinery at the rate of thousands instead of hundreds an hour. The machinery is, however, so complicated, that it would be impossible to describe it with any chance of being understood. Machines for making type, we may add, are not new in conception, although they have not been used until the last few years. Mr. Nicholson obtained a patent for a type-casting machine in 1790. Dr. Church, of Birmingham, also obtained a patent in 1825 for a plan of casting 75,000 letters an hour. Mr. L. J. Pouchée actually succeeded in casting 24,000 letters an hour. Machine-made type is used more generally in America than in Europe, where accuracy and beauty are more highly esteemed by the tasteful printer than cheapness.

« AnteriorContinuar »